Being "In the Game"

in The Philosophy of Computer Games 2008, Conference paper (text), Potsdam, Germany


When people describe themselves as being "in the game" this is often thought to mean they have a sense of presence, i.e. they feel like they are in the virtual environment (Brown/Cairns 2004). Presence research traditionally focuses on user experiences in virtual reality systems (e.g. head mounted displays, CAVE-like systems). In contrast, the experience of gaming is very different. Gamers willingly submit to the rules of the game, learn arbitrary relationships between the controls and the screen output, and take on the persona of their game character. Also whereas presence in VR systems is immediate, presence in gaming is gradual. Due to these differences, one can question the extent to which people feel present during gaming. A qualitative study was conducted to explore what gamers actually mean when they describe themselves as being "in the game." Thirteen gamers were interviewed and the resulting grounded theory suggests being "in the game" does not necessarily mean presence (i.e. feeling like you are the character and present in the VE). Some people use this phrase just to emphasize their high involvement in the game. These findings differ with Brown and Cairns as they suggest at the highest state of immersion not everybody experiences presence. Furthermore, the experience of presence does not appear dependent on the game being in the first person perspective or the gamer being able to empathize with the character. Future research should investigate why some people experience presence and others do not. Possible explanations include: use of language, perception of presence, personality traits, and types of immersion.